THE man behind a multi-million pound park restoration project has praised the people of Darlington for being so patient.

The £3.9m South Park project is still on target to be completed in mid- autumn. But as the weather gets warmer and more people head for the park to enjoy the spring, much of it still resembles a building site.

Yesterday Paul Place, park manager, said he was very grateful for the help and support offered by residents and park users.

Ninety people have signed up to a new Friends of South Park committee, which will look after the future of the park after the restoration project is complete.

Mr Place said: "The response has been incredible, there has been so much public interest. I run restoration walks here and on one of the walks in February, 63 people came along.

"In the winter the park was really muddy and didn't look great, but we didn't have one single complaint.

"The park is a little bit like building a house. Even when 99 per cent of the work is done, it doesn't look finished until the skirting boards and wallpaper are up.

"It does look like a building site here, but you will really start to see the difference when the landscaping starts."

A new children's play area, which opened on Maundy Thursday, has proved a big hit with families.

Mr Place said: "It has been absolutely packed, especially over the Easter holidays. There almost wasn't enough room to fit everyone in."

The play area will close again briefly to be turfed and have benches and new bins installed.

A new pedestrian entrance to the park, opposite the children's play area in Parkside will open within a couple of weeks and the bowling changing rooms are on target to open within a week to ten days.

The public toilets next door to the changing rooms will be open from mid-May.